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Bill Melendez
Peter Robbins, Pamelyn Ferdin, Glenn Gilger
Writing Credits:
Charles M. Schulz

Charlie Brown makes his way to the national spelling bee finals.

Rated G.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 86 min.
Price: $16.98
Release Date: 9/6/2016

• None


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A Boy Named Charlie Brown [Blu-Ray] (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 24, 2021)

Peanuts came to life as a comic strip in 1950. The series leapt to the TV screen with 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas and made it to the musical stage in 1967’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

From there all that remained was the movie screen, and the Peanuts crew jumped there with 1969’s A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

The film concentrates on the consistent pain and suffering of Charlie Brown (voiced by Peter Robbins), who fails at everything he does. He can’t fly a kite, he can’t win a baseball game, and even his therapist Lucy (Pamelyn Ferdin) does little more than delineate all his flaws.

Against his better judgment, Charlie Brown enters a spelling bee at school. To the shock of all – including himself – he wins the class contest and then emerges as the school champion.

This means he gains an entry in the national bee. The movie follows his adventures there along with pals Linus (Glenn Gilger) and Snoopy (Bill Melendez).

If I wanted to pick on negatives attached to Boy, I could find a few. The primary concern is that there isn’t much about it that makes it feel like a feature film.

Instead, it comes across as a really long TV special – just without the Dolley Madison commercials. The animation seems little improved over the early television shows, and the story certainly doesn’t warrant feature-length exposition. This whole thing probably could have run much shorter and been just as satisfying.

The film pads its length with quite a few superfluous musical numbers. I’m sure others will disagree and find those pieces to work better than I do, but I just think they drag the story too much.

The plot seems flimsy enough as it is; the addition of a long Beethoven tune or Snoopy’s fantasy hockey game don’t make it move any more swiftly. They strike me as elements included for little reason other than to make sure the movie reaches feature length.

I will admit they’re some of the few moments that don’t feel swiped straight from the comic strips. That factor is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, I think the story lacks a lot of ambition, and many of the gags come across as ones recycled from the strip. However, at least we get a good connection to Peanuts and the piece never seems detached from its origins.

Now that I’ve offered criticisms of Boy, I can take off my reviewer hat and tell you that most of its cinematic problems are really irrelevant. There’s too much pleasure and joy to be taken from Boy for its flaws to matter much. The film acts as a fun extension of the comics and satisfies in most ways.

The cast sure get things right. Robbins originated the lead voice back in 1965, and he brings just the necessary tones of sadness, angst and frustration to Charlie Brown.

Ferdin’s Lucy remains the perfect fussbudget as she shows a wonderfully pushy, bossy sensibility. Gilger’s Linus is a little lackluster, but overall this is a good cast.

I’m not wild about the title tune, but the rest of the music works well. I particularly like the downbeat, off-kilter cast given to Vince Guaraldi’s famous Peanuts theme when Linus loses his blanket. The score goes away from the usual peppiness to convey the character’s state of mind and does so wonderfully.

Is the animation cheap and TV-quality? Sure.

Is the story perfunctory at best? Definitely.

Does the movie entertain and delight? Without question.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B/ Bonus F

A Boy Named Charlie Brown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not terrible, the transfer suffered from a variety of flaws.

Most of the concerns resulted from print defects. Few parts of the movie passed unaffected, as the movie showed quite a few specks, marks, grit, blotches, lines and scratches. I thought it became a bit cleaner as it progressed, but the result remained messy.

Sharpness usually seemed fine. While I couldn’t refer to this as a tight presentation, it showed more than acceptable delineation most of the time,

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain was decent, so I didn’t suspect issues with noise reduction.

Colors varied, partly due to the grain and general messiness of the print. At times the hues popped, but they also felt drab at times – again, as a result of the issues with the source.

Blacks were acceptably dark and dense, and shadows seemed decent. With some clean-up, this would become an enjoyable presentation, but all the print defects became an issue.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of A Boy Named Charlie Brown worked pretty well – at least given the age and ambitions of the material. The soundfield opened up to a surprising degree, as the mix seemed consistently broad.

Localized speech occasionally came from the sides, and effects were placed accurately. Movement was perfectly decent as well.

Stereo imaging for the music was unexceptional, though. The score and songs spread to the sides without much real definition. I wouldn’t call it “broad mono” but I didn’t detect any particular clarity to the placement of the instruments. The surrounds acted to reinforce music and effects to a minor degree and that was it.

Audio quality remained decent. Speech could be slightly flat, but the lines were consistently intelligible and lacked any edginess.

Music also sometimes suffered from lackluster high-end, as the tunes and score seemed a little muted. Nonetheless, they were acceptable concise, and bass response was surprisingly good.

Effects sounded more than acceptable, as they showed good clarity and passable depth. This was a pretty nice little soundtrack for an older film.

How did this Blu-Ray compare with the 2011 DVD? Audio felt similar, though the lossless mix seemed a bit clearer than its lossy predecessor.

As for visuals, the Blu-ray benefited from the format’s superior capabilities, so it came with stronger definition and colors. Unfortunately, both DVD and BD suffered from copious print flaws, and those restricted improvements on the Blu-ray.

Note than the DVD went with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio – which oddly opted for 1.66:1 during the movie’s credits – whereas the Blu-ray gave us 1.33:1. I have no idea which should be considered “correct”, and I can conjure arguments for each as the better option. I doubt the 1.33:1 compromises the source, but I also doubt the movie ran theatrically at 1.33:1, as those dimensions wouldn’t have been common in 1969.

Expect zero extras here. Not even a trailer makes an appearance on this barebones release.

As one who grew up with Peanuts TV specials and movies, I may not be the most objective judge of A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The fact I still adore the comic strips and remember the other pieces fondly makes me biased, but I think even when I try to view things objectively, Boy works. The Blu-ray offers pretty good audio with subpar visuals and no bonus materials. I like the movie but the Blu-ray needs an upgrade.

To rate this film, visit the original review of A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN

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